The scientific breakthrough discovered by inserting tampons into peoples noses.

So your here because you just couldn’t resit the title… or you used some very odd search terms in Google. In any case, welcome to the article that gave me the most pause to write about so far.


!t was the 1960s (this decade is developing a bit of a reputation) and doctors were treating severe nose bleeds with gauze tampons[1] (in medical terms this is a plug of material used to stop a wound). Tuns out you stuff these things in peoples noses and they get very angry.  Now that may not seem surprising, but its not like doctors were just walking down the street randomly inserting tampons into peoples noses and complaining about an angry response. These were people being treated for serious conditions who started out calm, but would grow extremely angry after the tampon had been in a while. If the treatment was maintained for a few days people would become violent and start to panic[2].

What we Learnt

Packing the human nose with gauze tampon prevented ambient air reaching the nasal mucosa (thick layer of tissue, covering the inner cavities of the nose, rich with nerve endings and blood vessels). This prevented the body from being able to control the temperature at the base of the brain (specifically the hypothalamus).

This provided a strong rational for the idea that regulating blood flow, used to cool the brain, was an important component of the human emotional process [3].

It also explains a lot about why we may feel irritable or “off” when we are congested by the flew. It also gives some interesting ties to  certain emotional phrases eg: “hot headed” and “keeping his cool”.


The Ramifications

Facial actions (display of emotion) are also believed to alter how this blood flow effects the brain.  This provides strong support for the idea we can manipulate peoples emotions using their faces. This has led to a new set of experiments using botulinum toxin (Botox) to to prevent certain facial actions. causing alterations in the way people respond emotionally to certain stimuli [4].



[2] Fanous, N. “The absorbable nasal pack.” The Journal of otolaryngology 9.6 (1980): 462-467.
[1] Bendixen, H. H., et al. “Management of patients undergoing prolonged artificial ventilation.” Respir Care 10 (1965): 149-153.
[3 ] Zajonc, R., Murphy. S, and Inglehart. M. “Feeling and facial efference: implications of the vascular theory of emotion.” Psychological review 96.3 (1989): 395.
[4] Davis, Joshua Ian, et al. “The effects of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.” Emotion 10.3 (2010): 433.